Monday 22 May 2023
So we are back in Kenya and this is my eighth humanitarian trip. I genuinely love this country, it has become like a second home and I miss it when I’m away.
Over the last twelve months, I have personally had an incredible professional year. ’For Men To Talk’ is continuing to support many men and allowing them to discuss their mental health illnesses, I’ve won three awards and walked two virtual London Marathons. I have been in my full-time role for Mind BLMK, blended into the Biggleswade Community Mental Health team, for nearly a year now, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.
However, for my own mental health, I needed a break. This last year, I have worked extremely hard in both roles, I needed two weeks off.
After an overnight stay in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, it was time to head to Nakuru, 85 miles north-west. Nairobi continues to grow in rapid time, new buildings, especially skyscrapers are built every year and the roads and travel systems continue to be constructed.
Just a short distance from the city, and probably seen from those skyscrapers, we see the first sign of poverty in Kenya. Kiberia is the largest urban slum in Africa, with an estimated population of one million people. Most residents earn just £1.50 per day and approximately 12% are living with HIV. They all lack the basic service of electricity, running water and medical care.
We then reached the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, offering the most successful orphan elephant and rehabilitation program in the world. This place means the world to me, the team work extremely hard in rescuing and rehabilitating elephants, so that they can return to the wild. I’m always emotional as elephants were my late Mum’s favourite animal and she would of loved to see these beautiful creatures being nurtured, protected and finally released to a place where they belong.
Our last stop was at the Great Rift Valley. An incredible scenery measuring a staggering 4,000 miles long and 30-40 miles wide. It was formed when the Earth’s tectonic plates moved apart and can be seen in space!
During the three and a half hour drive to our hotel, I was able to reminisce with previous volunteers over ‘Derby County Community Trust’s’ 10 years visits to Kenya. We highlighted our favourite moments with many laughs and achievements and how much we are looking forward to this year.
Tuesday 23 May 2023
As per every year, we started the first day with breakfast, followed by a welcoming meeting from the African Adventures team explaining the trips and our roles. They were accompanied by the headmasters and headmistresses of all the schools that we were supporting.
This included Madame Valentine, our leader at West End Academy. She is an amazing, vibrant woman, who was visibly emotional in seeing a lot of us returning in 2023.
We were also delighted to be welcomed by Alex Maino, Chief Officer of Resource Mobilisation for Nakuru County Council, who is also the East Africa Director of African Adventures. Also joining Alex, were Josephine Atieno Achieng, CECM of Youth, Gender, Culture, Sports and Social Services and Rosemary Kimani Chief office of Tourism and Culture for Nakuru County.
Once the meeting was finished, it was time to see West End Academy once again. It never ceases to amaze me as to how close the Rhonda slums are from the town. The town is full of shops, mechanics, clothing stores and restaurants. But at a brief moment, the tarmac roads stop and the rocky roads begin and the shops are replaced by wooden huts, with people selling second hand clothing and fruit and vegetables.
Upon arrival at the school we were greeted by singing children and teachers, as well as parents, that were playing drums and smaller home-made instruments to welcome us. The children are without a shadow of a doubt the best part of our humanitarian trips, they are so warm, affectionate, but more importantly happy to see you.
Our kitchen that we constructed last year is still standing and looks great. Madame Valentine confirmed that it has made a big difference to the cooks physical and mental health by how easy it for her to use a sink, with running water, and service hatch for the children to retrieve their meals. Before she would have to carry water from across the playground to the original kitchen.
The children entertained us, taking it in turns to perform songs, poems and dance routines. I love this. It shows that they have been practising for weeks to provide us with a performance.
The day consisted of non-work activity, it was a chance to spend it with the children, making them smile and happy. All the volunteers embraced our roles in making the children smile. I took the particular task of teaching some the ‘two-step garage’ dance, along with garage music from my youth. Seeing a boy learn the words to ‘Body Groove’ by The Architects will live long in my memory!
Tomorrow, the hard work begins…
Wednesday 24 May 2023
The temperature is certainly rising in Nakuru. It’s definitely hotter than the previous couple of days. I’m a person who doesn’t like it too hot or even too cold, so sometimes the heat tests me.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by a foreman and his two labourers. They are carpenters by trade and much to our surprise, were there to build the wooden framework for the concrete shuttering and also the staircase.
What I keep forgetting about these trips is that it gives me an opportunity to find out about different countries and cultures. I had a fantastic conversation with the foreman about his life and vice-versa. He disclosed that he was struggling to understand his own labourers, as although they were speaking Swahili, it is slightly different due to their tribes language and dialect. He was also interested in our monarchy and how we had recently lost our Queen, but gained a King. We discussed our families and he said that he had a moto in life, the three letter W’s that could cause him trouble: women, wine and war!
We spent the best part of our day, firstly building what we thought was a ramp to the second floor, but in fact it was a staircase. Originally, we believed that it would be a ramp so that we could push wheelbarrows of cement up to the floor. Secondly, we made 19 steps for that staircase, which would be placed at a later date.
During our previous humanitarian trips and indeed this one, our volunteers are called ‘Mzungu’ as we ravel through the Rhonda slums. It’s is a term commonly used in East Africa, particularly in Swahili-speaking regions, to refer to a white or light-skinned person, often of European descent. The word originates from the Swahili phrase ‘wazungu’ which means ‘people who wander’ or ‘aimless wanderers’. It was originally used to describe European explorers and traders who arrived on the African continent during the colonial era.
Today, the term ‘mzungu’ is often used in casual context to refer to any white person, regardless of their nationality or origin. It is not inherently derogatory or offensive, although the context and tone in which it is used can determine whether it is intended as a friendly term.
Thursday 25 May 2023
What these trips gives me, is the chance to show basic tools to the younger volunteers in our group. Maybe something that we take for granted at home. In Kenya, the carpenters don’t use electric, so everything is done by hand, hammer, saw etc. It’s great just to guide the volunteers on how to saw a piece of wood or hammer a nail, even though I’m not an expert myself!
Before the trip I purchased ‘pull back’ toy cars, shaped as sharks. There were enough for every child at West End Academy. The kids need to pull the shark backward, away from its intended direction, while keeping it on the surface, release the grip on the car, allowing the pull-back motor to propel it forward.
Lucky for me, sharks are much in favour at the school. ‘Baby Shark’, a popular children’s song that gained significant viral popularity in recent years. The song is known for its catchy melody and repetitive lyrics. The song follows a simple structure, with each verse representing a family member of sharks. The main characters are Baby Shark, Mama Shark, Papa Shark, Grandma Shark, and Grandpa Shark. Each verse introduces the family member and describes their actions using repetitive words and hand gestures.
I loved watching the children play with the sharks on the tables, floors, even on the dust fuelled playground outside.
For the most part of the day, myself and a few volunteers were given the task to build what will be the corridor to the entrance to the second floor classroom. We had to build a wooden mold for concrete, also known as a formwork or form. It’s a structure used to shape and contain wet concrete until it sets and hardens. It provides support and defines the desired shape and dimensions of the final concrete structure.
I had a friend message me from home last night asking why a lot of our Kenyan friends have yellow in their eyes. The yellowish tint of the sclera can be attributed to a condition called scleral icterus. It’s also known as icteric sclera, a visible manifestation of jaundice, a condition that occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin in the blood.
Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells. Normally, the liver processes and eliminates bilirubin from the body. However, when there is an issue with the liver’s functioning, or when there is an excessive breakdown of red blood cells, bilirubin can accumulate in the bloodstream.
Friday 26 May 2023
Guttering plays a crucial role in humanitarian countries, especially Kenya, where access to clean water is limited or unreliable. Guttering systems allow for the collection and storage of rainwater, providing a vital source of water for various uses, such as drinking, cooking and hygiene. This is especially important in Nakuru where other water sources are scarce or contaminated.
Guttering helps reduce the reliance on unsafe water sources and minimises the risk of waterborne diseases by providing a controlled and stored supply of rainwater.
On inspection, a lot of guttering wasn’t doing the specific job required to collect the rainwater. Corrugated galvanised iron (CGI) is a type of sheet metal that is commonly used for the roofing in Kenya. However, the sheets were cut short when first installed and the rainwater was hitting the classrooms rather than into the guttering.
In general, the ends of metal roof sheets should overlap into the trough of the gutter by around 50mm. But anymore than this and the increased speed with which water drains down the smooth metal surface, will see the water miss the gutter altogether.
We spent most of the day added a new guttering system to the school, as well as fixing new overlaps to some of the roofing, so that the water would collect in the gutter.
Filtered and treated rainwater can be used for chores such as cleaning, laundry and general sanitation. This helps conserve treated water from other sources, such as piped water or wells, for drinking and cooking purposes.
Saturday 27 May 2023
Having a couple of days off when doing humanitarian work is incredibly important. While the work itself may be noble and fulfilling, it can also be emotionally and physically demanding. Taking time off allows us to rest, recharge and rejuvenate both mentally and physically, which ultimately helps us sustain our efforts in the following week.
On the Saturday, we always visit Lake Nakuru National Park. One of the best national parks in Kenya. The park surrounds Lake Nakuru which covers an area of approximately 45 square kilometers (17 square miles). It is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 2.5 meters (8 feet), though it can vary depending on rainfall levels.
Lake Nakuru National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife species. The park is known for its populations of rhinos, both black and white. Other notable wildlife includes buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, lions, leopards and various antelope species.
One of the most remarkable sights at Lake Nakuru is the presence of pink flamingos. Last year, thousands of these elegant birds gathered along the lake’s shores, creating a stunning spectacle of vibrant pink. However, this year it was different. The lake is particularly high at present and flamingos eat insect larvae and algae that gives them their pink hue. However, high water levels shrink the birds ideal breeding and feeding grounds, therefore this year, we saw very little.
Going on a safari can have several positive effects on mental health. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood and increase feelings of relaxation and well-being. The sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness can evoke a sense of awe and wonder, promoting a positive state of mind.
Seeing animals in their natural habitats, such as lions and black and white rhinos, is a profound and awe-inspiring experience. It evokes feelings of joy, excitement and a sense of connection to the natural world. Research suggests that interacting with animals and observing wildlife can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and increase feelings of happiness and empathy.
Seeing critically endangered black rhinos and lions in the wild is an extraordinary and memorable experience. These majestic animals are iconic representatives of African wildlife. In previous trips, I‘d only seen one male lion before, but this year we were in for a treat. We saw the ‘King of the Jungle’ only a few feet away. Lions are highly social animals, living in prides, and on this occasion the male lion was with two females.
For my eighth safari, I was able to witness something for the first time. Our vehicle came to a halt as a volunteer points ahead, whispering, “There it is, a leopard!” You slowly turn your gaze and lock eyes with one of nature’s most elusive and awe-inspiring creatures. The leopard, perched on a sturdy branch. How he spotted it, I will never know. The leopard’s dappled coat, a stunning display of spots that merge seamlessly into a tapestry of camouflage, allows the leopard to blend effortlessly into its surroundings. As we observed from a safe distance, the leopard displays its inherent grace and agility, occasionally stretching and yawning.
Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite ever safari.
Sunday 27 May 2023
An incredible experience playing against a team called Supernova FC today. They were formed to try to keep young men in their village out of trouble. The team are aged between 18 and 27. In the village there is not much work and potential to take illegal risks are high! Forming this team has really made a difference and the donation of a full kit and boots has made them a proper team and proud to represent their village.
From the training earlier in the year and then walking a marathon in April 2023, I thought that was I relatively fit. However, I didn’t take the altitude into consideration.
At an altitude of over 1,750 metres, running at that height can have a significant impact on our breathing due to the decreased availability of oxygen and I have to admit, myself and most of the volunteers struggling to adapt to it.
Here’s how it affects our respiratory system:
- Reduced oxygen pressure: As you ascend to higher altitudes, the air becomes thinner, which means there is a decrease in the partial pressure of oxygen. This reduction in oxygen pressure makes it more challenging for your body to obtain the necessary amount of oxygen during exercise.
- Decreased oxygen saturation: At higher altitudes, the concentration of oxygen in each breath remains the same, but the overall amount of oxygen available is lower due to decreased atmospheric pressure. As a result, the oxygen saturation of your blood may decrease. This can lead to a reduced supply of oxygen to your muscles and tissues, including those involved in breathing.
- Increased respiratory rate: To compensate for the decreased oxygen availability, your body attempts to take in more air by increasing your respiratory rate. This means you’ll breathe faster and possibly deeper to meet the oxygen demands of your working muscles. The increased respiratory rate helps to maintain oxygen supply and remove excess carbon dioxide, a byproduct of energy production.
- Higher heart rate: With reduced oxygen levels, your heart needs to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles. As a result, your heart rate increases to deliver oxygen more rapidly. This higher heart rate allows your body to maintain the required oxygen supply and support the increased respiratory effort.
- Increased breathing effort: As you run at high altitudes, you may experience a greater sense of breathlessness and a feeling of increased effort during breathing. This is partly due to the reduced oxygen availability and the increased work your respiratory muscles need to perform to overcome the lower air pressure and obtain sufficient oxygen.
But playing football against a team from a different country, Supernova FC, and a different language is a unique and exciting experience. Football is a universal language that transcends cultural boundaries. It provides an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the diversity of the global football community. With the different level of skill, altitude and different techniques, we all strives to overcome the challenges presented by a new playing style, unfamiliar tactics and talented opponents.
More importantly, the sport brings friendship and camaraderie. Despite the language barriers, football has a way of bringing people together. The shared love for the game and the mutual understanding of its universal language create a bond among players. Friendships can be formed, and lasting memories can be made through the shared experience of playing against a team from a different country.
Monday 28 May 2023
Children living in the Rhonda slums of Nakuru must face unique challenges and adversities that can have a significant impact on their mental health.
They often grow up in poverty, overcrowded conditions, and limited access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation and healthcare. All these circumstances expose the children to violence, crime, substance abuse and exploitation. Luckily the children of West End Academy are given free education, whilst many other don’t, to learn.
As the founder of ‘For Men To Talk’, my role has always been to give a safe environment for men to talk about their mental health. But these children of Kenya have even more limitations to talk about how they are feeling.
These children often lack awareness about mental health and the available resources to address their psychological well-being. They will have to rely on conversations with families, friends and teachers to initiate conversations about their mental health. I wanted to increase their understanding and knowledge, empowering them to seek help when needed from those people.
During a break in work, I decided to teach a class. I took the eldest year and talked to them about the importance of talking about how they are feeling, especially if they were feeling low. Between two children, they all shared a copy of my book, ‘The Mental Health Moles’ that I wrote two years ago and altogether they read a few of the chapters out loud. It was a beautiful and humbling moment that meant so much to me and from the feedback that I had from the children later that day they got a lot from my book and discussion.
We read the following chapters:
- How are you? – page 2
- Being sad – page 4
- Rain or shine – page 6
- Bring angry – page 16
- Walking – page 24
- Am I alone? – page 52
- Taking chances – page 56
- The future – page 96
- Listening – page 104
I know that talking about their mental health will hopefully allow the children of West End Academy to recognise their unique challenges, but also promote understanding and awareness, breaking the stigma and ultimately empowering them to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.
Later that day, a few volunteers took a trip to the local hardware store. A rather impressive shop offering a diverse range of construction and building materials and tools, that was very similar to those at home.
I couldn’t help but play a practical joke on Emily, a volunteer. I suggested that we needed a left-handed screwdriver, which obviously doesn’t exist, as screwdrivers are not designed specifically for left-handed or right-handed individuals. She asked the owner for one, which produced laughs from us and the Kenyan workers.
Tuesday 29 May 2023
First thing this morning, I decided that I wanted to buy some fruit for the children. With the help of headmistress Valentine, we headed through the streets of the Rhonda slums to a fruit stall. The vendor sell fruits to the residents of the slum areas. Due to their poverty, fruit stalls provide a convenient and affordable source of fresh fruits for the slum dwellers.
The stall was a makeshift wooden structure displaying bananas, apples etc, sourced from wholesale markets depending on the availability and affordability. I purchased 65 bananas and 16 apples at a mere price of 1,200 Kenyan Shillings, just £8 in English money! More importantly, the children loved the food.
Our job for today was to construct the frames for reinforced concrete beams. The rectangular reinforced concrete beams will support loads and transfer them to supporting columns or walls of the classroom. It consists of a combination of concrete and reinforcing steel bars.
To enhance the beam’s tensile strength and improve its resistance to bending and cracking, steel bars are embedded within the concrete. These steel bars, known as reinforcement or rebar, are typically made of high-strength steel and are placed in the lower portion of the beam, where tensile forces are highest
In addition to the longitudinal steel bars, smaller steel bars known as stirrups are placed perpendicular to the main reinforcement. Stirrups provide lateral support to the longitudinal bars, helping to resist shear forces and prevent the concrete from cracking under these forces.
Building frames for reinforced concrete by hand is a labour-intensive process, but it’s possible with the right tools and techniques. We had to:
- Design and Plan: We had to determine the dimensions and layout of the structure that we are building. The foreman had a detailed plan that includes the sizes and locations of beams, columns and any other structural elements.
- Material Preparation: We had to procure the necessary materials, including reinforcement bars (rebar) and formwork. Although rebar is typically available in various sizes and lengths, we had to cut and bend according to the design specifications.
- Marking and Layout: Using chalk lines and measuring tapes, we marked the positions of the structural elements. This helped us guide the placement of the rebar and formwork.
- Rebar Placement: Following the design, we had to lay the cut and bent rebar in the marked positions, securing them together using wire. We. Had to make sure the rebar was adequately and equally spaced.
Today is always a tough one for me. Clothing donations to children living at West End Academy can make a significant difference in their lives. Access to basic necessities like clothing can be limited, and many families struggle to afford new or adequate clothing for their children. Donating clothes can provide them with essential items and contribute to their well-being.
We always ensure that the donated clothes are in good condition, clean, and suitable for wear. We are also mindful that to approach the process with respect, dignity, and sensitivity toward the recipients. By giving thoughtful consideration to the needs and circumstances of children living in slums, we can make a positive impact on their lives.
The Women’s Institute (WI) of Derby kindly made many outfits for the young girls. I placed an outfit on a young girl and took a photo of her for her to approve. She jumped into my arms with tears of joy. I became very emotional myself and had to have a few moments on my own to compose myself. This is why I come every year.
Wednesday 31 May 2023
We continued from the previous day to construct the frames for the reinforced concrete beams.
It wasn’t until the evening, where we celebrated a volunteer’s birthday at a local restaurant, where I could see the continual struggles of the Nakuru residents as we drove through the city.
Nakuru is the fourth-largest city in Kenya. It is a major economic hub and attracts people from different parts of the country in search of opportunities. However, the city’s rapid urbanisation has led to an increase in homelessness.
The rapid influx of people into cities like Nakuru has strained the available housing and infrastructure, leading to a shortage of affordable housing options, therefore some people live on the streets. They are unable to secure stable employment or earn enough income to afford decent housing. Poverty is a significant factor contributing to homelessness.
Insufficient social support systems, such as affordable housing programs and comprehensive healthcare, contribute to homelessness in Nakuru. Many individuals and families lack access to the necessary resources to secure stable housing.
As we travel through the city at night in our mini-bus, we see numerous lit bonfires keeping people warm during the cold, dark evenings.
The lack of suitable housing and employment is also a factor for the tremendous increase of drug-taking in Nakuru, with adults and even children as young as nine years sniffing ‘mafuta ya ndege’, which they smear on handkerchiefs and keep on inhaling throughout the day.
Cannabis, commonly referred to as ‘bhang’ in Kenya, is the most widely used illicit drug in the country, including Nakuru. It is consumed for recreational purposes and has a long history of traditional use in certain communities. However, it is important to note that cannabis is illegal in Kenya.
In recent years, the use of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘crystal meth’) has been on the rise in Kenya. These drugs are typically produced illegally and can have severe health consequences.
Thursday 1 June 2023
Madaraka Day is a public holiday celebrated in Kenya on June 1st each year. It commemorates the day when Kenya attained internal self-rule from British colonial rule on June 1st, 1963. ‘Madaraka’ is a Swahili word that means ‘power’ or ‘authority’ and the holiday signifies the transfer of power from the colonial government to the Kenyan people.
Madaraka Day is an important national holiday in Kenya, and it is observed with various ceremonies, events and celebrations throughout the country. The main event takes place in the capital city, Nairobi, where the President of Kenya addresses the nation and highlights the progress and achievements made since independence. The ceremony often includes military parades, cultural performances and the raising of the Kenyan flag.
During Madaraka Day celebrations, Kenyans reflect on the country’s struggle for independence and the efforts made by various individuals and groups to liberate Kenya from colonial rule. It is a day to honour and remember the sacrifices made by freedom fighters in the fight for self-determination.
Madaraka Day is not only a time for reflection but also a day of national unity and pride. It brings together people from different ethnic backgrounds, regions, and walks of life to celebrate their shared identity as Kenyans. It is also an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the country’s cultural heritage, diversity, and progress.
In recent years, Madaraka Day has been marked by social, cultural, and sporting events held across the country. It is an occasion for Kenyans to come together, enjoy festivities and appreciate the achievements and aspirations of the nation.
The students of West End Academy still attended school, accompanied by their siblings, but had no lessons. The day was filled with music and sport.
The children disclosed their favourite songs, where they showed their dance moves:
- Rema – Calm Down
- Master KG – Jerusalema
- Vic West – Kuna Kuna
- Billnass (feat. Jay Melody) – Puuh
- Jay Melody – Sawa
We also donated items for a sports day, to promote physical fitness, teamwork and healthy competition amongst the children. We played many games, included:
- The egg and spoon race, a fun and lighthearted race that requires participants to balance an egg on a spoon while attempting to reach the finish line without dropping it.
- The bean bag race, where children balance a bean bag on their heads while racing to the finish line. It tests not only their speed but also their focus and coordination.
Friday 2 June 2023
The final day is always the hardest, as per the previous trips, usually we drop down tools and play with the children and this year was no exception.
A good friend of mine from home sent me a video of a homemade table football game. Table football is a popular tabletop game that simulates the sport of soccer. It involves two players competing against each other to score goals by manipulating small figures mounted on rotating rods.
Myself and my nephew Max, used a scrap metal sheet and made a rectangular table with a playing surface that represents a miniature football field. The table is divided into two halves, each featuring a set of rotating rods protruding from the sides. Max bended the rods to make the players too. It looked great.
The children control the rods by twisting to hit the ball. The objective is to maneuver the players strategically and score goals by getting the ball over the opponent’s line while defending one’s own goal. The students loved it!
Watching them play was such a nostalgic experience, it reminded me of my own youth. It’s amazing how certain activities or games can transport me back in time and evoke memories of my own childhood.
I’m an office worker by trade, I’m not a D.I.Y expert, but creating something with my own hands and seeing it bring joy to others, especially children, is incredibly rewarding. When the game was complete and you see children excitedly gathering around to play, their smiles and laughter is a testament to not only the game we’ve made but all of our hard work over the last two weeks. Watching them engage with something you’ve created fills me with a sense of pride and fulfillment. I know that I’ve contributed to their happiness and provided them with an opportunity to create their own cherished memories.
As our humanitarian trip comes to an end, saying goodbye to the children is such an emotional experience. I find myself filled with a mixture of joy for the moments we shared and sadness that we must part ways. Over these two weeks, I have been immensely privileged to witness the childrens strength, resilience and beautiful spirits.
Each one of them has touched my heart in a unique way and they are so special, loved and capable of achieving incredible things, despite the challenges they face. They just need a little support and help from others, including us.
Although we must bid farewell for now, the connections we forged during our time together will remain etched in my heart forever. Not just these two weeks, but the last eight trips, these children have shown me the true meaning of hope, courage and determination, and for that, I am forever grateful. It’s truly changed my life.
As I leave, I just want the children to always believe in themselves. Education is a powerful tool and can take them to many places. I want them to continue to pursue knowledge and embrace opportunities to learn and grow.
I hope that the children know that there are people out there, such as us and African Adventures, who care deeply about them and are working tirelessly to create a better future for them.
They are not alone. Our paths may separate physically, over 4000 miles, but our bond of friendship remains unbreakable. I know that one day, probably next year, our paths will cross again and we can continue this incredible journey together.
I feel so privileged to be part of the trip once again, I will carry the childrens smiles and laughter with me wherever I go. Farewell West End Academy for another year. May you continue to shine brightly and inspire others as you have inspired me.